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Dominae Mortem – Tengu Mythology

In one of my Patreon posts I spoke about exploring the origin of folklore and mythology for my Dominae Mortem novel. The idea is to look at existing spiritual creatures and monsters, and create my own version of how they came to be. Today we look at the Tengu from Japanese mythology:

Tengu are legendary creatures found in Japanese folk religion.  They are also considered a type of god (kami) or yōkai (supernatural being). Although they take their name from a dog-like Chinese demon (Tiangou), the tengu were originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics.

Tengu are most frequently depicted in the yamabushi’s (yamahoshi’) distinctive costume, which includes a tokin and yuigesa – a pom-pommed sash.

The arc I am working on for Dominae Mortem this Camp NaNo was not planned. I knew the character but not the setting and not what’s supposed to happen. This rolled into a week long research/writing where Google Maps/Images was my best friend.

Creating a realistic location is so much work. Without a plan, I kept writing myself into a couple of impossible situations. And I did what any normal Dark Fantasy author would do… I hurt the protagonist. No one escapes the wrath of dark fantasy. So nothing at all was working according to plan.

However, one thing I knew for certain was that I had to create a Tengu. I had no idea how or who or when. Thankfully, the setting I spent so much time researching told the story I needed. As I pantsed my way through, I created a character who had a specific role and they in-turn decided to alter their destiny.

Here’s an excerpt of the transformation:

*Touma-san. Takeda-san. Naoharu-san. Do not rejoice. Your sacrifice bears many consequences. Until the Shinigami accepts her fate, the curses will remain.

Naoharu the yamahoshi is suddenly thrown into the air. A large brown bird descends from the heavens. A tobi – the Black Kite. Its claws grip Naoharu’s scalp and the bird thrusts its head into the yamahoshi’s open skull. He screeches in fear and pain. Still he lifts into the air, caught in the birds’ claws. The tobi continues to dig its head into Naoharu, pushing through the rotted brain. We watch aghast as its beak pushes out of Naoharu’s nose, stretching the skin until it seems to break. His face begins to simmer in black tendrils, melting the skin as it takes on the shape of the bird. His features transform until he is an amalgamated bird man. The tobi’s body completely sinks into the screaming yamahoshi. The residing maggots skitter out in droves. They dribble down the yamahoshi’s yuigesa as the man crumples forward in the air. We hear the popping crunch of bone. It is like the crack of thunder. Naoharu’s arches his spine as the back of his robes rip. Large black-brown wings sprout from his back. They continue to grow and grow and grow, until they are as tall as the yamahoshi.

This tori-no-otoko, Tengu as we name him, shall be the guardian and prosecutor of the Ōyashiro. The voice rumbles – As for you, Touma-san, the darkness within shall lead you to the Shinigami. Find her. She must accept her destiny.

A single breeze blows through us and Naoharu drops from the air. His enormous wings beat once with a gale of wind and he remains hovering above us. His beady eyes flit about. A bird-like screech claws from his beak as he beats his wings again. He ascends into the heavens and flutters off towards the grand shrine.

*

And off goes Naoharu to become the great myth known as the Tengu. You probably have a lot of questions about the who, what, where etc that lead to this. All shall be revealed in the final novel. Until then, it’s back to the writing. Thanks for dropping by.

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The Other Side of World Building

March was a month dedicated to world building in preparation for Camp NaNo, which is already at the end of its second week. One of the biggest issues with the process of world building is the fact that you are not writing as you build the world. You have concept characters in a concept world pushing conceptual plots.

As a writer, you should know, what you have in your head never works out the same way once the words fill up your blank page. Your characters start misbehaving, adding more to their backstory, referencing characters you haven’t really created because you didn’t think about them. The world, which was rich and expansive, does not incorporate the little spaces your characters decide to visit.

This has been my woe with the first of the novels I’m working on, Last Robot on Earth (name to be revised). Below is the mind map that plots out all the places where the story takes place. This is one of five mind maps that are just as detailed. I figured that all of this would be sufficient… but it’s not.

I had to create a sixth map where I outline what happens in the first arc, and within that arc all the details of what should happen. I say should because when I started writing, I realised that what I had built was still being shifted around by the story itself. On this side of world building, the story is the boss.

Plotting vs Pantsing

I’m not a plotter by default. Perhaps that’s why this isn’t working as well for me as I thought it would. I lack the details. I see the overall picture and think little of the puzzle pieces that work together to build the picture. What has definitely helped with the plotting, is knowing where I am going. Which means I still have the freedom to write the scenes as they happen. Of pantsing my way through the checkpoints I have planned.

This also means writer’s block doesn’t strike so often. I am thankful for all the work I put in to planning and so onward I go. 18,582 words and counting.


Have you experienced this when you are world building?

World Building is Overwhelming

steampunkfloatingcity

A deep grumble echoes across the metal and bone cluttered expanse stretching towards the Great Wall and back beyond The Wasteland. The sky above us is grey. Dead. Perhaps, at one time, the choking smog had been nothing more than dark clouds threatening rain. The roar, a warning of the impending thunder. Beyond it, an azure sky where the dormant sun waits to illuminate the world below. Perhaps. The dark silhouette painting an elliptical shadow over the denizens is not a cloud, though it rumbles with a threatening charge. The floating city, ironically named Utopia, belches more tainted pollution into the grimy sky. High-rise buildings atop the metallic furnace stretch towards the sky, scraping the impenetrable heavens – adding to the smog that keeps the sun perpetually at bay.

How long will it continue to defy God’s laws? How long will it keep itself separate? Father watches it pass, grim, soot stained resentment etched into his drooping jowl. We shakes his head once. We journey on.


A story crafted from an image. An image that existed, perhaps inspired, in the mind of an artist. An artist with a world outside of our own who then brought it to life. As writers, we not only create these worlds, parallel to our own or not, but we also craft stories from them. Our characters live in them, plots unwind across their landscape and readers separate fact from fiction long enough to live in them. Whether it’s visiting Diagon Alley for the first time or traversing Middle Earth, perhaps even shopping at a famous boutique in New York, the worlds become real. This is the beauty of world building.

World Building is Overwhelming

Imagine you had to create Earth from scratch. If that thought isn’t daunting enough, let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of building Earth.

theworld

The Earth is round. It spins continuously, while also rotating around the Sun. It has a moon. All of these factors affect the Earth massively. They define time-zones, weather, sea levels, adaptation of people and animals, etc. This means you’ll have frozen tundras, scorching desertscapes, teeming forests, unrepressed grasslands, combinations of these… and this is just on land.

Not overwhelmed yet? Okay let’s zoom in further. You have animals adapting to their environment. Can you imagine trying to create all the animals, considering their make, shape, their place on the food chain, and their adaptations (if any) according to their environments. Both for land and sea and sky.

turaffe

No? Okay how about the most complicated of all creatures: people. If you had to create every continent, country, province, city, and suburb, then define each one of their religions, cultures, beliefs, development, living conditions, style of dress, education, family dynamics and how they live in their respective environments (desert people compared to mountain people to city people), you’d go bonkers.

world-day-for-cultural-diversity

And we’ve only skimmed the surface of the intricacies of the world. We haven’t even considered the progress of humanity through ages up the point where you are reading this blog post on an electrical device connected to an invisible entity known as “The Internet”.

The image I used above to write that short little piece takes everything we know and alters it to create an alternate Earth with different technology, different history, and a whole other set of alternatives that change everything we know right now.

Junk Yard Angel World Building

Thankfully we don’t have to recreate a new Earth for every story we write. Can you imagine? No one would want to be a writer! However, for those rare moments when it is necessary, world building can nudge the creative juices in the right direction between the bouts of deep-seated panic and the need to nap.

I’ve been doing a ton of research for my novel Junk Yard Angel. I’m basically constructing my own Earth. I thank the Internet for making this so much easier and being able to have information at my fingertips such as how weather affects the land. I’ve literally been learning about farming because one of the towns is a farming community – using steam technology.

I’ve also been drawing my own maps. It’s such an amazing experience. I’m loving the research and adapting things into this faux unnamed world so similar to ours yet so very different. Although most of it won’t actually be in the novel, it does cement me better into this world I’m creating. Makes me feel like I’m part of it. Makes it real – and I love it.


Have you ever had to build your own world? How was the process for you?

 

JYA Novel – First Drafts and Mind Maps

junkyardangel-anovel

Today I skimmed over my first novel attempt – Junk Yard Angel. Although I’d written this close to 4 years ago, I’m pleasantly surprised by the writing in this first draft. I see a lot of places where improvements can be made and some places I’m going to delete, but there are a lot of pieces I will definitely include in the second draft. It’s a relief to know I was not a completely terrible writer, and that I’ve improved over the years. It can only get better from here right?

Mind Your Novel

Mind maps are like my thing now. They used to be when I was far younger, encouraged by English teachers to use planning, then I stopped when I found the joy of discovery writing, but now I see the value of them once again and have become an official Plantser. Mind maps allow me to contain all my ideas, plots, characters, and general thoughts into one document, divided into pages for each topic.

  • Main Story: Details the overarching theme. Lists all significant plot points and any side arcs.
  • Characters: Lists every character, role, character arcs,growth points and anything else related to the character.
  • World: Maps out the world and the continent/countries. Detailed descriptions for each location. Points out key locations and how they tie in to characters, main story and anything else significant.
    • Also includes details regarding culture, religion, technology, weather, people, economy, fawn, flora, etc etc
  • Technological Advancement: Explains where the world is technologically, and what the current world utilizes in day to day activities.
  • Resources: All links, references, pictures etc used to form the novel.

First things First

I’ve been reading the Mammoth Book of Steampunk for a number of months now. Steampunk is one of those sub-genres that fascinate me. It requires a lot of research to keep it authentic, while inventions need plenty out-of-the-box thinking.

the-mammoth-book-of-steampunk-adventures

For Junk Yard Angel, the first thing I will be tackling is the in-depth research. I’m exploring current trends in technology and wondering how they would work in an alternate Earth where there’s no electricity but steam. How it would have come to fruition. What technology in real life was invented during the pre-electricity era, and what could have propelled those inventions forward had electricity failed.

The story is also set in various locations, which means each place has technology unique to them. Different people and cultures will also have varying needs. Weather and temperature will affect requirements. Weaponry. Living space. Lifestyle. Religion. All of these aspects have to be explored and meted out in order to build a believable living world.

Onward!

I’m genuinely excited. My mind is already creating images and scenery inspiring me forward. Mind maps are starting to shape up. World building is also one of my favourite parts of writing a novel before the real hard work begins.

I hope you continue with me on this journey towards writing my novel.

 

Junk Yard Angel – 2017’s Old-New Novel Goal

White Angel Artwork

White Angel by – JasonChanArt.com

In December 2012, I wrote a short story called Junk Yard Angel, inspired by the beautiful image above by Jason Chan. A year later I attempted my first NaNoWriMo with every intention of writing a Junk Yard Angel novel. The premise was as follows:

In a pre-technology era, the world was moving along fine and at a steady pace when a new technology was introduced. Steam powered contraptions began to appear all over the world, slowly at first but increasing rapidly with time and along with them, junk yards. Now the world relies heavily on this new technology (and the ridding of the old), even more so now as natural disasters seem to be occurring more often than before. And then rumours began to stir among the people, rumours of a saviour of sorts,the girl with the white hair – the Junk Yard Angel.

This was my first foray into the world of Steampunk. An exciting fantasy sub-genre where steam and natural gas are the primary sources of power as opposed to coal and electricity. Although I spent a lot of time on the story, writing 22155 words during NaNo, I felt that my story didn’t become the epic novel my mind had been brewing. The reason? Lack of world details, a weak plot, non-existent character arcs and flat characters. I was just a current firing off with the synapses without any forethought.

giphy

In the time between then and now, I’ve always thought about that novel, my first attempt at intentionally writing a novel and the potential in the idea. Steampunk popped up in other stories as well, including another novel attempt that was a steampunk horror inspired to be the spiritual successor of Junk Yard Angel. I’ve decided, after almost four years of deliberating, to once again attempt to write and finish Junk Yard Angel. This is the main goal for 2017.

Second Attempt Goals

Rather than jump right into writing the novel, I’ve decided to build it all up slowly with proper planning. Looking back, I don’t know how I thought I’d get anything done without a plan in the first place. As much as Pantsing is fun, and you can discover a lot of amazing things along the way, I always hit a brick wall when I do. Every time. This time, I’m going to be intentional and it starts as follows:

  • Build the world

Steampunk may seem like a limiting genre. You can only have a Victorian Era style of characters, clothing, language etc. I think that’s a serious misconception. The world then was not limited to just one area and different cultures would have exprienced the same era with varying results. This is my goal. A new world. My world.

  • Culture Shock

The original novel took place in a lot of areas. I’m not going to throw all those ideas out but build on them. Let’s see how different cultures and people were affected by this amazing technology. This will mean a lot of research and brainstorming. For instance, what if steam technology was introduced to a village where snow fell constantly. What inventions would they build, as opposed to London city folk?

  • A Living World

Details are important. What sort of transportation was being used? Was money important? What did it look like? Did markets exist? In what form? Were there any buildings? What sort? What were they using to build them? What materials were being used for buildings, clothing, weapons, and the world around them. If I cannot see the world where the story takes place, if it is not living in my head, then how can I write it?

  • Endless Possibilities

While there may be people who would frown upon what I’ve written, and would prefer the classic Steampunk renditions as seen in The Golden Compass, Wild Wild West, Treasure Planet, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the like, let’s not forget that Steampunk is a Fantasy genre and therefore anything can happen.


I’ve changed my site theme (again) just to see how it works. Sorry for all the changes.

In My Head

TooMuchInMyHead

I’m a writer. Of course I am.

Yesterday I was driving home and my mind was thinking through a particular idea I was writing, and the plausibility of it in the real world. Why would this idea work/not work? How can we get it to work? What’s the difference between the real world and this fantasy world, the difference between our society and the society in this fantasy world, the law, rules, stigmas, mentalities, world views, personalities etc etc etc. And of course, I was talking to myself out loud in the car and I make hand gestures when I talk – I don’t know why. You can surely imagine I must have looked like a philosophical scholar in the middle of a world changing academical reverie.

TalkingToMyself

The Musing

World building can be a massive undertaking. There is so much to consider, from the size of the planet (if you must) to the natural building materials that people can use in their particular environment. From it’s solar system to the flora and fauna that populate the world, all dependent on climate and environment. Then you have to consider people. Their history. Their circumstance. Their advancement across of fields (medicine, technology, policing, society). Their means of transport. Their food. Their clothes. Their cities, villages, holes in the ground.

As much as some things can be taken for granted (such as the colour of the leaves in a forest) some things need to make sense in your world. Take “class” for instance. Are there social classes? If not, why not? What’s replaced the class? Would it work? Why would it work?

An idea: A new world where there are no poor people. Would that mean everyone is equal at every level? That no one has more or less than another at all. Is that possible? Why? Are you able to logically and convincingly defend your newly created world? Here’s my defense:

“There’s a benevolent god who ensures that people are absolutely honest with each other and keeps anyone from ever receiving more or less than another. All family units are the exact same size so food is allocated accordingly and fairly. No job is greater than another requiring more prestige or pay. There is no bartering or selling to avoid placing value on anything, instead there are workers who farm, pick fruit/vegetables, sew/knit, gather wood, mine, nurse, heal etc in a communal cycle of good faith, honour and respect. Each vocation feeds into another. Education system feeds into either one of these vocations. If you are able to do more than one, you can but it doesn’t mean you are better for it. Artists and musicians are not seen as greater than street cleaners or woodcutters. The benevolent god enforces all of this by any means necessary and restores the balance. Do not disobey.”

obeyordie

Would this work? What flaws exist in this seemingly perfect system?

Writer’s Mind

I don’t know if it’s vain of me to think this way, but I believe writer’s are great thinkers with amazing abilities. Look at J.R.R Tolkien and his creation of Middle Earth. I mean he created his own languages! Look at Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series, based on a world which is flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants who are standing on the back of a giant turtle moving through space. *mind blown* And let’s not neglect our contemporaries J.K Rowling,  Neil Gaiman, Brandon Sanderson, Eoin Colfer, Peter V. Brett, Jim Butcher and so many others who have created magical worlds, designed magic systems, fabricated unique creatures, twisted societies, and put it all together in written form for us to enjoy. And you, if you are a writer, you are spinning tales from the web of your mind and weaving it into written format for others to enjoy. If you ever doubt yourself or your writing, remember that what you do and love to do, is an amazing skill that not everyone can just pick up and do. There’s worlds and stories confined within your mind, bashing against the walls of you conscious crying to be let out.

Get It Out!

I don’t even know what this post is about anymore but one must write a conclusion as English teachers across the world have taught others like me to do:

  • It’s okay to be in your head. That’s where the magic happens. I’m apparently an extrovert (*gasp*) but I also enjoy my moments of solitude where I can just delve into my mind and consider things. Sometimes it’s completely blank and that’s okay too. Silence is golden after all.
  • Spend time writing your story. Then think if it’s plausible and why.
    Vampires that drink oil instead of blood are cleaning up the oceans. When the oceans are clean, they live among us: Picture a lanky pale figure walking out of a Petrol Station/Garage (Gas Station for my American readers) in the dark of night, illuminated by pale moonlight. In their hand is a can of oil (WD40 or Q20) with a straw poking through it, drinking away into the night.
    Great story. But why oil?
  • Take time away from writing to piece your story together to your world. Spend time in the aesthetics of your novel. Great characters and plots need a great world to live in. Don’t neglect it.
  • Are you considering all five senses when you write? Your characters walking into a crime scene shouldn’t be smelling, seeing, hearing, the same things as walking into a bakery. Holding someone’s hand shouldn’t feel the same way as holding a frog. Make those distinctions and engage your readers’ senses.
  • Don’t be intimidated by the greats. There are many factors that contribute to one’s success or level of writing and detail. Write YOUR story. Don’t be the next J.K Rowling, be the next you.
  • Live life to the fullest. Take in your surroundings whether you live in the city, surburb, village, cloud nine. Your experiences feed into your writing, your environment feeds into your writing. Don’t take the sights, smells, sounds, textures and tastes for granted.

Finally, be the best writer you can be!

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